Audra Hazelberg, PT, DPT, Ripon Medical Center
Many of you have found yourselves working at home due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Setting up a proper workstation is important to decrease risk for injury and developing chronic pain. Using proper ergonomics, body position, can decrease stress and focus on neutral posture to minimize pain.
Here is a simple “how to guide” on how to set up your work station to optimize body posture and ergonomics.
To achieve optimal neck and posture, move screen height to eye level and adjust tilt of screen to reduce glare and adjust for progressive lenses. When using two screens, place them side-by-side in line where you can look at both of them while maintaining neutral head posture. If you use one monitor more than another, place that monitor to the side to maintain neutral head position at the most used monitor.
Make sure to focus on 90/90 position of elbows, hips and knees when adjusting your chair, and ensure feet on placed on ground or support surface. For good lumbar support, ensure chair is filling curvature of lumbar spine or place towel roll/bolster at curvature of low back.
To reduce stress on wrists, adjust key board to promote straight wrists and rest palms versus wrists on support surface. When using a laptop at home, prop up laptop on surface to make it eye level and recommend using external keyboard and mouse if you are using it for extended periods of time. Your mouse should be in easy reach next to your keyboard to avoid forward shoulder posture.
If using a phone often for work, avoid cradling phone with neck and shoulder and consider using a headset to minimize neck and shoulder pain. Most importantly, avoid prolonged positioning at your desk to prevent symptoms. Make sure to stretch or take a break from your desk two to three times throughout your day.
If you are developing pain that does not improve with adjusting your position and body mechanics, contact your primary care provider and get a referral to physical therapy. Your physical therapist can evaluate your area of pain and instruct in home exercise program, receive manual therapy, and/or modality treatments, further education on posture, ergonomics and body mechanics, and educate you on how to self-manage your symptoms.